$13K in fraudulent checks cashed
Vail, CO Colorado
AVON ” Four people, three of whom were illegal immigrants, allegedly cashed stolen checks at a video game rental store that accepts all forms of photo identification, according to Avon police.
Luis Perez, owner of Valley Stone Inc. in Eagle, reported Feb. 8 that someone stole eight or nine payroll checks from a lock box at his business. Someone cashed the checks at Avon’s Video Munoz, resulting in a loss of $13,655.
Officer Mike Lundblade of Avon Police Department said that Omar Terrazas, a former Valley Stone employee believed to now be in Mexico, stole the checks and convinced several people to write Perez’s payroll checks to themselves for no more than $2,000 each.
The suspects then cashed the checks at Avon’s Video Munoz, which does not require a valid driver’s license to cash a check, Lundblade said.
“We’ve got all this identity fraud right now and a lot of illegal immigrants have false identification,” Lundblade said.
Perez said that he could not understand why Video Munoz did not require valid forms of identification.
Video Munoz requires people cashing checks to provide any form of photo identification, which the business copies along with the check. The business then charges $1.75 per $100, according to the police report.
Phone calls requesting comment from the owner of Video Munoz were not returned.
On Feb. 10, Avon police arrested Miguel Angel Gardea-Ramirez and a 17-year-old boy on suspicion of theft and conspiracy. Police arrested Ricardo Serreno on suspicion of theft, conspiracy and illegal possession of alcohol and another 17-year-old boy on suspicion of theft, forgery, criminal impersonation and conspiracy.
Lundblade wrote an arrest warrant for Terrazas’ alleged involvement in the incident, according to the police report.
Perez said he thinks Alpine Bank, which manages his Valley Stone account, failed to check the signatures on the forged payroll checks. None of those arrested worked for Perez.
The bank never called Perez to inform him of any suspicious activity on his account, said Perez, who found out about the caper only after reviewing his bank statements.
Management at Alpine Bank would not comment on Perez’s case.
Perez said he would try to get Alpine Bank to recover his losses.
“They could have avoided everything by paying a little attention,” Perez said.
After an investigation lasting two days, Lundblade would arrest four of the five suspects, three of whom provided Lundblade evidence implicating the next suspect in the incident, he said.
After obtaining copies of the photos and checks cashed at Video Munoz, Lundblade contacted someone at a local business who recognized two of the suspects in the photos.
Lundblade arrested a 17-year-old boy who admitted he was paid $200 to write his name on the “pay to the order of” line of the check and then cash it, the report said.
The man told Lundblade of another 17-year-old, who also admitted cashing one of the checks, though he said he was not paid, the report said. That teenager told Lundblade that Gardea-Ramirez had asked him to cash the check, the report said.
Gardea-Ramirez told police that Terrazas told him to cash the checks, from which Gardea-Ramirez said he received no money, the report said.
Meanwhile, Serreno turned himself in to police, the report said. Serreno told Lundblade that he did not know the people who paid him $300 to cash a check.
The two 17-year-olds, whose names were withheld because they are juveniles, were released to their parents, said Krista Jaramillo, spokeswoman for Avon Police Department.
Serreno and both 17-year-olds were illegal immigrants, Lundblade said. Serreno is being held in Eagle County Jail on a $7,500 bond. Gardea-Ramirez paid his $7,500 bond and was released, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or email@example.com.